Welcome to a.m. Intel, your bite-sized roundup of Chicago food and restaurant news. Tips are always welcome, drop them here.
A San Francisco-based private investment firm has purchased partial ownership of Lou Malnati’s, Chicago’s famous deep-dish pizza chain. The hedge fund, Meritage Group, acquired an undisclosed number of shares previously held by BDT Capital Partners but members of the Malnati family — brothers Marc and Rick, sons of the chain’s eponymous founder — remain the two largest individual shareholders, according to the Tribune.
Bloomberg first reported the sale for more than $500 million last week but did not detail what that transaction would mean for the chain, which has long promoted itself as family-owned. Marc Malnati has spent the following days trying to calm fans, telling the Trib and ABC Chicago that nothing about Lou’s experience will change for staff or diners. Long-time fans worry that investors would cut corners with recipes as they gear up to open more locations. Lou’s fans carry the same fears as Portillo’s fans, and out of state where Detroit-style specialists Buddy’s Pizza are gearing for its own expansion.
Founded in 1971, Lou Malnati’s runs 58 Chicago-area locations, plus outposts in Wisconsin, Arizona, and Indiana. The chain is the subject of vigorous debate among Chicagoans, some of whom decry deep dish as “tourist food,” and earned a less-than-flattering mention in Netflix rom-com series Emily in Paris. But deep dish has its ardent supporters in Chicago, and Lou’s also does an underrated version of Chicago-style thin crust pies.
Chicago wants women- and BIPOC-owned restaurants along riverwalk
The city of Chicago is encouraging Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), and women to apply to to run concession stands along the Chicago Riverwalk for the 2022 season, which starts in May. The city issued a news release Monday morning looking for more small businesses to operate out of the stalls along the river. There’s a section along the south bank fo the river between Michigan Avenue and Wabash, reserved for small businesses. Applications, which are due by November 8, are available online and the city will also hold a seminar for interested parties at 2 p.m. on October 13.
Blaktober features 35 restaurants
Blaktober, a month-long virtual food festival that highlights Black-owned businesses with meal deals and specials, has kicked off for the second year, according to the Triibe. The 2021 festival includes about 35 Chicago area restaurants, including new entries like pulled pork and peach cobbler from Brunch ‘n Burgers in Tri Taylor and shrimp and Hennessy scampi from Italian spot Provare in West Town. Festival founder Jeremy Joyce, also behind local Black-owned restaurant directory Black People Eats, will host an in-person Blacktober brunch on Saturday, October 16 at Luella’s Southern Kitchen. More details and tickets ($50) are available via Eventbrite.
A new beer festival will launch this month in Albany Park
Northwest Brewfest, a new beer festival featuring tastes from some of the city’s best-known breweries, is scheduled to kick off Saturday, October 23 at Twisted Hippo Eatery & Taproom in Albany Park, according to a rep. Patrons can expect three 80-minute sessions featuring at least a dozen brewers, including Revolution, Eris Brewery and Cider House, and Old Irving Brewing Co. Twisted Hippo (2925 W. Montrose Avenue) will offer free arcade and pinball games during the fest, and costumed attendees can pick up a free beer at nearby Templestowe Pub (3135 W. Montrose Avenue). Tickets ($35, includes 5-ounce sample glass) and more details are available online. Attendees will be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
Lula Cafe gets literary
Farm-to-table icon Lula Cafe in Logan Square will this week host chef Peter Hoffman, known for his work at New York’s Savoy and Back Forty, who will read from his new book What’s Good?: A Memoir in Fourteen Ingredients, according to a rep. Attendees can also expect a lively discussion with Chicago food writer and cookbook author Chandra Ram and Lula chef and owner Jason Hammel about the “farm-to-table movement” and neighborhood restaurants. The event is slated for 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday. Tickets ($25, includes food and drink), reservations, and more details are available via Resy. Attendees will be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination.